February 9, 2023 – Montreal, Québec – New tracking research shows a recovery of trust in government among Quebecers and other Canadians as pandemic fatigue ends but also an emerging “generational trust gap” that could upset the electoral map and change how leaders work in Quebec and Canada.
The findings come from the 2023 Proof Strategies CanTrust Index from Proof, the long-time partner agency of Capital-Image in Montreal. The index is one of the largest annual studies of trust in Canada, examining trust in leaders, sources of information, institutions and more.
The new research puts aggregate trust among Quebecers up three percentage points, from 40 per cent to 43 per cent, and above the 39 per cent seen in Canada at large (up from 34 per cent in 2022). The overall increase for Canada was driven in part by a 15-percentage point increase in trust in government and an eight-percentage point increase in trust in the news media, the latter being highest in Quebec at 47 per cent (up from 39 per cent last year) compared to 43 per cent in the rest of Canada overall (up from 35 per cent).
For the fifth year running, trust levels in Quebec are higher than for any other region in Canada. Quebec’s 43 per cent trust level is just above British Columbia at 42 per cent but ahead of Ontario at 39 per cent, Atlantic at 35 per cent and the Prairies at 34 per cent. Overall aggregate satisfaction levels are also higher in Quebec than elsewhere at 55 per cent, just ahead of BC at 54 per cent, followed by Ontario, Atlantic and the Prairies at 49, 48 and 46 per cent respectively.
Though Quebec Premier François Legault was re-elected with an increased majority last year, trust in his government declined again in this year’s survey, to 37 per cent from 42 in 2022, continuing a decline each of the past four years from 49 per cent in 2020. The seeming contradiction of re-election and falling trust is perhaps explained by the survey also revealing Quebecers have the lowest levels of trust of any region of Canada that the current election system is fair or that it adequately represents votes of citizens. Just 40 per cent of Quebecers trust either of those things compared to highs above 50 per cent in Ontario and British Columbia.
“Again, this year, the findings of the 2023 CanTrust Index show important differences between Quebecers and other Canadians in their attitudes towards key aspects of society and its institutions,” said Silvie Letendre, President of Capital-Image. “This demonstrates once more that companies, institutions and politicians need to understand and adapt to these differences in order for their messages to meet a positive reception in Quebec.”
“Canadians still look to government ahead of the private sector as a trusted institution, but politicians have a lot of work to do in their own trust,” said Bruce MacLellan, President & CEO of Proof Strategies. “While trust is improving as we emerge from the darkest hours of the pandemic, we see an emerging tidal wave of change with younger generations losing trust and changing expectations.”
The generational trust gap
Across social, economic and electoral questions, there is a widening gap in trust between younger and older generations. When asked if most people can be trusted, 39 per cent of Gen Zs and 45 per cent of Millennials said yes, compared to 52 per cent of Boomers and 76 per cent of Canadians aged 75 and older. In the wake of COVID-19, 64 per cent of Boomers trust the Canadian healthcare system compared to only 45 per cent of Millennials. And with a possible recession looming, younger Canadians are also less likely to trust the leadership in their workplaces. 36 per cent of Gen Zs and 37 per cent of Millennials trust their CEO or most senior boss compared to 46 per cent of Gen X and 48 per cent of Boomers.
Additionally, a major generational divide exists in the role of government and in satisfaction with politicians. When asked if they think the government plays an important role in providing services to help make Canada better, 51 per cent of Gen Zs said yes compared to 75 per cent of Boomers. Similarly, 27 per cent of Millennials think politicians do their best to deliver services efficiently and on time compared to 44 per cent of Canadians aged 75 years and older.
What the generations can agree on is the different actions brands should take to become more trustworthy – 61 per cent of Gen Zs and 62 per cent of Boomers are more likely to trust companies that commit to environmental sustainability. Similarly, 56 per cent of Millennials and Boomers are more likely to trust brands that support charitable causes.
Trust in government improves while trust in its leadership remains low
Trust in government is improving as Canadians put the pandemic behind them. In 2023, 37 per cent of Canadians trust government to be competent and effective, compared to 22 per cent in 2022 – a 15 per cent increase. While Canadian attitudes towards government are more positive, trust has not improved in political leaders. Trust in politicians in general remains very low at 22 per cent.
Trust in the Prime Minister has been flat for three years now and is 32 per cent in 2023. Quebec has the highest trust in the Prime Minister at 36 per cent (though that figure has declined for each of the past four years from 42 per cent in 2020), compared to Prairie residents at 24 per cent. Trust in the Prime Minister among Atlantic Canadians has dropped significantly from 41 per cent in 2022 to 28 per cent in 2023. The overall trust across Canada in Premiers is also at 32 per cent, down from 37 per cent in 2020.
Quebecers have the lowest level of belief that the government plays an important role in providing services to make the country a better place, with 58 per cent agreeing compared to levels of between 62 to 65 per cent elsewhere. However, 36 per cent of Quebecers say they think politicians do their best to deliver services efficiently and on time, compared to levels of just 23 to 28 per cent elsewhere.
“We continue to find very low trust when we look more deeply at our political system. Only nine per cent of Canadians have “a lot of trust” in federal and provincial leaders to reach collective agreements, with 47 per cent having “some trust.” Fully 56 per cent of people say political parties are a divisive force and only 16 per cent say they are a unifying force in our country,” said Genevieve Tomney, Vice President, Public Affairs at Proof Strategies. “Politicians and political parties have a long way to go when it comes to building trust with Canadians.”
Trust is declining in Canada living up to its values
When asked to consider a list of 12 core values, Canadians score most of them lower now than at the start of the pandemic. When asked if Canada is living up to the value of freedom, 59 per cent trust that it is – compared to 73 per cent in 2020. Similarly, 53 per cent trust that Canada is safe, compared to 68 per cent in 2020.
More concerning is the steady decline in how Canadians view democracy. In 2023, 49 per cent of Canadians said that they trust their country to perform as a democracy, down 16 per cent from two-thirds (65 per cent) in 2020.
Among the least trusting are the youngest Canadians. When Gen Zs were asked if they felt like Canada was living up to the value of democracy, 38 per cent said yes compared to 50 per cent of Boomers; and 36 per cent of Gen Zs trust Canada to be fair, compared to 48 per cent of Boomers.
“We’re seeing lower trust in Canada’s higher values,” added MacLellan. “All leaders need to take note and take action.”
Canadians don’t feel good about the economy
For many Canadians, 2022 was a tough year as interest rates climbed, inflation soared, and the economy slowed. When asked if they trusted Canada to deliver economic security, 35 per cent said yes. Trust in the economy is lowest among Gen Z. When asked if they felt satisfied with the economy, 29 per cent of Gen Zs said yes compared to 50 per cent of Boomers. Similarly, 34 per cent of Gen Zs said they trust the financial and stock markets compared to 46 per cent of Boomers.
To address these issues, Canadians expect government leaders to step in. When asked if the federal government has a place in strengthening our economy, 76 per cent of Canadians agreed that it should play a major role.
Despite criticism of the Bank of Canada for its management of interest rates, trust in the Canadian institution is stable at 49 per cent compared to 53 per cent in 2022. By comparison, the cryptocurrency industry is the least trusted Canadian industry at 12 per cent. Grocery retailers are trusted by 47 per cent, telecommunications by 30 per cent, oil and gas companies by 26 per cent and online gambling providers by 14 per cent.
Gen Zs expect CEOs to speak on issues
A slim majority Canadians (53 per cent) expect business leaders to speak out regularly on important issues like climate change, racism, and social equity. However, younger Canadians have higher expectations. 61 per cent of Gen Zs expect business leaders to speak out, compared to less than half of Boomers at 48 per cent.
Other survey findings:
- Among brands tested, the Canadian Red Cross had the highest trust by Canadians at 62 per cent and Facebook if one of the least trusted organizations at 22 per cent.
- Trust in the Canadian military has increased from 52 per cent in 2022 to 57 per cent in 2023.
- Trust in the RCMP increased from 48 per cent in 2022 to 54 per cent in 2023.
- Trust in the news media increased by 8 per cent from last year to reach 43 per cent.
- Canada’s healthcare system is trusted by 58 per cent, the same level as last year. Medical doctors (73 per cent) and scientists (69 per cent) remain the two most trusted groups of people for reliable information, with friends and family at 68 per cent.
- Newcomers to Canada continue to be much more trusting than people born in Canada. For example, 61 per cent of newcomers trust the Bank of Canada compared to 47 per cent of those born here.
- Quebecers have the lowest level of trust in the immigration system at 31 per cent, compared to 38 per cent overall in Canada and regional trust levels elsewhere ranging from between 37 to 43 per cent.
About the 2023 Proof Strategies CanTrust Index
The Proof Strategies CanTrust Index, now in its eighth year, is a leading source of research and understanding of trust in Canada. We study and analyze topics, institutions, events and population segments unique to Canada and surveyed 1,502 Canadians between January 5-12, 2023 by online panel. The sample is representative of Canadian population statistics by region, age and gender. Our study uses a 7-point scale with 7 being the highest trust and 1 being the lowers. Respondents choosing 7, 6 or 5 result in the percentages of trust used in this report.
About Proof Strategies
For leaders responsible for managing, protecting, and building organizations and brands, Proof Strategies is a public relations, government relations and communications partner that “asks better questions” to create insight, grow trust and support clients. Founded in 1994, the independent agency has earned more than 300 awards for client work and industry leadership, including Best Workplace in Canada in 2010 by Great Place to Work™, Agency Team of the Year in 2020 by the Canadian Public Relations Society and Caring Company Certification in 2022 by Imagine Canada. Proof has been carbon neutral since 2008. Learn more at getproof.com and follow Proof Strategies on Twitter and Instagram at @get_proof.
Founded more than 30 years ago, Capital-Image is a Montreal-based integrated communications agency with a versatile, bilingual team of professionals. Over the years it has won more than 25 awards for its excellence in communications and was one of the first communications agencies in Montreal to be certified as carbon neutral.
Capital-Image is one of the six largest public relations agencies in Montreal and its operations have been certified with an A+ ranking according to the standards of excellence in professionalism and service for Quebec public relations agencies.
For over 27 years, Capital-Image has been a partner of the agency Proof Strategies, with offices in Toronto, Ottawa and Washington, DC. Since 2015 it has been a member of the WE Network (Waggener Edstrom Communications) which has more than 21 offices around the world. capital-image.com
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